How spicy is too spicy? The age-old question.
The answer is simple.
A good cook makes their food no hotter than what the most spice-sensitive person at the table can handle and still enjoy the meal.
If you spice your food to match the preferences of the person who loves an enormous amount of heat, then an intolerant person will hate the meal and may not even be able to eat it.
If it isn’t spicy enough for the household chile-head, they can add heat or simply eat it and be a little bored with the flavor.
Everybody gets to eat, but everybody may not be happy.
In my house, I like considerably more heat than my wife, but I want her to enjoy the food.
I make up for this disparity by adding additional heat to my food at the table. I can add a salsa that I’ve made or a vinegar-based sauce like Tabasco or Cholula, but that can interfere too much with the flavor of the food.
To add some heat without overwhelming the underlying flavor of the dish, I add a sprinkling of chile pequin powder.
Dried chile pequins land somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 on the Scoville scale. That’s hotter than a cayenne pepper and as much as ten times hotter than a jalapeño.
It’s not the insane kind of hot you get with ghost or scorpion peppers, though (850,000 to 2,000,000 SHU). I’d like to keep my taste buds where they are, thanks.
For me, pequin peppers are hot enough to not take much to heat up my meal, but not so hot that it makes it inedible.
As far as flavor goes, it is one of my favorite chiles. Although, since I put so little on my food, it doesn’t interfere with the flavor of what I’m eating. It just adds a subtle dried chile flavor.
How to Make Chile Pequin Powder
If you’re in Texas and you are lucky enough to have an HEB Grocery Store nearby, you can usually find pequin chiles in the produce department in the dried chile section. If you can’t find them, you can order them on Amazon for a reasonable price.
Don’t get pre-crushed or overly cheap ones. If they’re already crushed or old, they may have started losing flavor already.
Quality matters with chiles.
The chile pequin itself is a tiny little pepper, about the same size as a large kernel of corn.
To make the powder, simply throw the peppers into a spice/coffee grinder and grind until powdered.
I prefer to grind mine very fine so that it doesn’t add any grittiness to my food.
Add it to a spice jar with a sprinkle top and you’re ready to go. Repurpose a used spice bottle, or order one online.
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